A high school/college referee asks:
I have been seeing a lot of players in other sports lately wearing arm sleeves. I would judge this to be similar to wearing tights (compression shorts) which should match the main color or hem of the shirt and if there are more than one, the team should have the same color. Would I be correct in my thinking or are those pieces of cloth prohibited? Does the uniform / sock / undergarment language also address Captains bands or other arm (compression) sleeves?
First of all, until we begin seeing in soccer what you are seeing with respect to “other sports,” there is little basis on which to offer any sort of definitive answer. All we can do at this point is speculate within the framework of what we already know regarding the Laws of the Game.
Some things are easy. For example, don’t worry about captain’s armbands. They are permitted and don’t come under any provision of the Law beyond the restriction that they must not present a danger to anyone (though we would be hard-pressed to contemplate an armband that might even faintly be considered unsafe!). This, of course, assumes that it is not being worn over the sock. Like anything, however, which is not part of the required uniform described in Law 4, it should be inspected — or at least given a brief glance. Law 4 also includes “arm protectors” as part of the category it calls “protective equipment” and states that they must be “non-dangerous” (which is a wordier version of “safe”) if made of “lightweight padded material.” Conceivably, if something worn on the arm did not specifically extend below the sleeve of the jersey but, rather, started from below the jersey sleeve, it could be considered as falling in this category.
The difficult question regards something worn on the arm that does begin from some point under the jersey sleeve and then extends downward on the arm. This would give every appearance of being an “undershirt” which would then become subject to the rule about its color being the same is the main color of the shirt sleeve. The sticking point here is that, without having the player undress to some point, there would be no way of telling whether this type of armwear was part of a true undergarment or just a sleeve extension.
Our recommendation, should you find yourself facing such a situation, is to treat armwear that starts under the sleeve and then continues on the arm as an undershirt and apply the Law appropriately. If it begins below the sleeve, treat it as an arm protector and limit your concerns to whether it is safe. Finally, you always have the option if things start to look sticky to point out to the player that, if the armsleeve is not a true undershirt but is otherwise not in conformity with the undershirt rules, simply pull it down far enough to show skin, thus demonstrating that it falls under a different rule. Keep in mind the core objective of the undershirt rule is to standardize jerseys … and anything which appears to be an extension of the jersey. Also remember that the wearing of anything other than compulsory equipment may be a topic covered by a local rule of competition. The final thing to remember (so much to keep in mind!!) is that many technical violations may be considered trifling: choose to insist on those things that really matter (but include details of situations like this in your game report).